Monday, October 29, 2012

What I'm Reading Now!

The Big White House on the Hill
by Winifred Banks

Love and support are two of the major building blocks that a mother uses to rear her child. Yes, there is food and shelter and clothing to consider, but these two things make a difference in the quality of a child’s life! In Winifred Banks true story, The Big White House on the Hill, she reveals her great aunt’s constant physical and mental abuse and her journey to find love – sometimes in the wrong places!

Winifred grew up in Florida with her Mama, who was not a kind woman. Sometimes Winifred thought that “…Mama was married to Satan himself because life with her was pure HELL” (Banks 9). Her savage beatings began from the time that Winifred could remember, and many a night she prayed to God to relieve her of her suffering. It wasn’t until Winifred was a pre-teen that she learned her Mama was really her great aunt. This fact relieved her in an odd way because, for years, Winifred could not fathom the thought that a “…woman could carry a child for a full nine months, pray to God night and day that her child be born….healthy…then…treat that child…the way that Mama treated  [her]” (9)!

 Winifred reveals her story in a straight-forward, and sometimes humorous, fashion. This well-written book captures the struggle of a young girl who is trying to survive abuse and who seeks the love she so desperately lacks at home in any place that she could find it! Winifred holds nothing back in her story, revealing the savage beatings by her great aunt, a teenage pregnancy in a time when it was frowned upon, and the unrequited love of her child’s father. In the end, though, Winifred triumphs over her struggles as she finally learns to live with no regrets. As an adult, she recognizes that her adverse childhood strengthened her faith in God and allowed her to be a better parent than her mother!

From this moment forth, view your struggles differently! Understand that God uses everything – both the positive and the negative experiences - to teach us lessons which help us to grow in the spirit! Look back on your life and appreciate that the struggles allowed you to grow and to change and to become a wiser person than you were years, months, even days ago! And always, always move forward in positivity!


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

What I'm Reading Now!

Sovereign Nation, Child of the ReSoulution
by Shaka Jasper

Gone, it seems, are the days of Malcolm, Martin, and Medger – men who risked their freedom and their lives to conquer the evils of an oppressive society!  Will no one be able to step up in this twenty-first century madness to break these suppressive chains?  That question is answered in Shaka Jasper’s riveting novel, Sovereign Nation, Child of the ReSoulution, as we meet Jurist Isaiah Johnson and bear witness to his transformation from a boy into the man destined to lead an embittered people towards their former greatness! 

The novel opens in the year 2042, and Africans Americans have been restored to their former glory as “…a nation…possessing devout guidance and godly humility…” (Jasper). And yet - so many years later - the story of the freedom struggle is never forgotten and continues to be passed down from generation to generation. Especially revered is the story of the legendary Jurist and his Black History Paper, a document that is “…read to the young like the scriptures of the Old Testament were read to the Hebrew children of Israel” (Jasper). Jurist rebelled against society’s misconceptions regarding minorities - especially the incarcerated - and led a powerful crusade to “…build community alliances…and [fight] historical demons” (Jasper). But, unbeknownst to the masses, the road to attain such greatness required those involved to make life-altering sacrifices!

With a gripping plot, Shaka Jasper seamlessly moves the reader towards a greater understanding of Jurist’s ultimate purpose - and gives us a peek inside the mysterious organization which enables the fulfillment of that purpose. Confronted with hardship and the weight of adulthood while leading a revolution, Jurist conquers seemingly insurmountable odds. Yet, it is this quiet determination and faith that makes the reader desire Jurist’s success as much as one would their own. And, as an added bonus, Shaka’s skillful input of historical information throughout the novel serves double duty: to entertain and to educate! 

The ugly truth of racism is not sugar-coated in Sovereign Nation, Child of the ReSoulution, and Shaka does not hold back in his depictions of the graphic and brutal assaults inflicted on black men in the south during the fifties and sixties. (But wait! Hasn’t that brutality extended even into 2012?) Despite this negativity, however, his depiction of a generation of men who believed in the reestablishment of “…a culture that [reflects] the ingenuity, intellect, and self-sacrificing nature of [the] ancestors” (Jasper) manages to inspire hope that one day, the outcome will be just as beautiful as 2042, a not-too-distant future!


Saturday, June 23, 2012

What I'm Reading Now!

dying to be straight by Michael Beckford 

With the recent legislation regarding gay marriage, the issue of homosexuality is a hot topic at this present time. The right to marry, have a family, and live a normal, productive life is central to the declaration given by those who share their lives with a same sex partner. But what if you wanted to be heterosexual? What would be the outcome if you had faith that God would answer your prayers? In dying to be straight, Michael Beckford presents a compelling story that exposes one man’s struggle to change his sexuality and the faith that allows him to proclaim that “…no homosexuality has any power over [him] in the name of Jesus Christ” (Beckford 171). 

Paul Stringer lives an alternative lifestyle. By seventh grade, “…the ways of homosexuality were placing [him] in a state of unfamiliar metamorphosis,” (35). He changed the way he walked, the way he talked, even the way he dressed!  By college, he decided to practice bisexuality where he would “…have flings with the girls in the morning and sneak out with the guys at night” (79). It isn’t until he becomes the father of a son and faces serious health issues that Paul decides to seek God to change his sexual preference. 

Paul’s desire to become heterosexual, even though the “…same people who were casting [him] down as a sinner going to hell were also fornicating behind the bleachers” (42), may seem odd at first. Most times, a person either never thinks about their sexual orientation or thinks about it as a source of pride. But Michael’s first-person writing style allows the reader an intimate look into the mind of a man who lives a reality many may never experience – the yearning to change one’s attraction to the same sex! It is this yearning which leads Paul to seek freedom from his desire for men through religion - a controversial and challenging thought for some, as we hear of churches who claim to “cure” homosexuality. But Michael manages to transmit this message in a persuasive manner, making the reader consider that through faith and a belief in a power greater than us, real and miraculous change can manifest! 

Paul’s every moment – from the horrific to the light-hearted - is presented in a straight-forward, no chaser manner, as Michael challenges the reader to discard preconceived notions of who deserves to be loved and who does not! 1 John 4:8 states that “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. “  To me, dying to be straight promotes that very message, because if God is love, then “…love has no boundaries; it transcends past race, gender, and even sexual preference” (72). Thus, let us all live in…


Thursday, March 8, 2012

What I'm Reading Now!

The Adventures of Angus the Mouse
by Montice Harmon

The young are explorers! This way and that way, they move about in the world - ever learning, ever growing, wanting to know more, more, more! In Montice Harmon’s delightful tale, The Adventures of Angus the Mouse, we see this exploratory spirit in action as Angus encounters the pitfalls of venturing far from home and learns valuable moral lessons about the kindness of strangers, the power of prayer, and the love of family!

Angus’ adventure begins on a sour note. As the baby of the family, he is considered “… too young to be playing with [his] brothers…”, and his sisters “…sometimes [only] like to play with girls” (Harmon 7). This upsets Angus to the point of tears, but a trip into town with his mother is just the thing to cheer him up. It is during this trip, however, that Angus faces unimaginable dangers, and his brothers and sisters are forced to realize just how much they love their little brother!

Angus and his mother are separated during the trip by an encounter with an angry black bird looking to eat them both! Unfortunately for Angus, he falls off of a cliff into the river below! Right away, Angus learns his first lesson - the kindness of strangers - because it is Sam the Rat that initially saves his life and Edward the Beetle who assists him in finding his way home. We often tell our children, as I have many times, to beware of strangers. But in these instances, it was the kindness of a stranger that saves Angus from death and starvation. And when Angus gets sad, lonely, and frustrated that he will never see his family again, it is also Sam who reminds Angus that “…sometimes in life, kid, you have to hold on to a word called faith and believe in the impossible” (22). 

Meanwhile, Angus' family is crushed at his disappearance! Little does Angus know that while he is missing, the same brothers and sisters who would not play with him had “…gathered around and prayed for Angus to return home safely” (20)! And when he does eventually arrive home safe and sound, they are overjoyed to see their little brother! Angus is really glad to hear that he was missed and he “…couldn’t wait to tell them about [his adventures on] the other side…” (37)! Once again, two more great lessons - the power of prayer and the love of family - communicated by a simple children's tale!

The Adventures of Angus the Mouse is a wonderful little book with lots of big messages. Parents can read this book to their children for entertainment while still imparting priceless lessons regarding the importance of loving family for who they are, the power of prayer, and being safe and cautious when out and about in the world. And I’ll bet before the book is finished, that parents will also learn a thing or two! ; )


Friday, January 27, 2012

What I'm Reading Now!

The Savion Sequence by D. Amari Jackson

For centuries, humankind has searched for the meaning of life and the mysteries of the universe. Beginning in Africa, the ancient peoples “…were active pyramid builders and experts at astronomy even before their Egyptian neighbors…” (Jackson 32). Forced to run from western invaders, they fled to  “…where they could safely practice their high astronomical sciences and continue their age-old research in the physics of Creation itself” (44). In D. Amari Jackson’s thrilling novel, The Savion Sequence, it is this search that propels the reader on a journey of discovery fraught with family secrets, science, and murder!

The story opens in the home of Savion Elijah, a noted professor and distinguished scholar of African history – and Professor Elijah has visitors! His brilliant research to find the “…perfect balance between heaven and earth” (214) has created a maelstrom! And soon, his nephew Brigham Elijah will understand just how much his family has sacrificed for the “…fulfillment of [a] larger wish to know and to affect the trajectory of humanity…” (232)!

Moving at  lightning speed, Brigham, his girlfriend Samora, and Moja – a gifted 19-year-old African mathematician – embark on a journey that traverses the globe and requires the full use of their intellectual ability to decipher the hidden messages and codes leading to an amazing metaphysical discovery!  And with D. Amari’s clever writing and intriguing story line, each chapter builds upon the next – enticing the reader to keep turning the page as the three race to uncover a supreme knowledge “…so significant that there [are] folks around who would actually kill to keep it under wraps…” (91)!

The Savion Sequence is a definite must read! The book is a “…tribute to the nighttime sky and to ancient Africa-Egypt in particular” (8). And it’s uniqueness as an African-centered mystery which showcases “…the astronomical acumen of the Dogon..." (18) and the societal contributions of the Nubian, is enough to warrant a place on any bookshelf!

I will leave you with my favorite line in the book, as it is great advice for us as we continue to move forward in this new millennium:  “There are keys to everything we do in life…it’s up to us to listen to that voice inside that leads us to where they are, or tells us what to do next” (75).